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2024 Fantasy Forecast: Washington Commanders

The Commanders are looking for brighter days under a new regime. Can this offense thrive in fantasy under a rookie quarterback!? It's time to check out the Commanders for the 2024 season.

Welcome to the Fantasy Forecast series! We at Dynasty Nerds will be talking about every NFL team and breaking down the players on that team. We will talk about their value for the upcoming season and give dynasty advice on what you should do with that player if so.

Jayden Daniels, QB

The Commanders, for the first time in a while, have a fantasy quarterback worth being excited about. Daniels is a rookie quarterback, so expect there will be ups and downs in his first year. The one trait that dynasty owners wanted for Daniels was to see his rushing output on the field. In his last two years at LSU, he averaged 77 rushing yards per game. Daniels’ ability to rush will be something that dynasty owners expect to be in play in 2024. We’ve seen that the last two very mobile rookie quarterbacks, Anthony Richardson and Justin Fields, averaged around 35 rushing yards per game. If Daniels could do that for 17 games, that could equate to almost 600 rushing yards.

Photo Courtesy of Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire

If Daniels could take advantage of that rushing ability, he’d have a chance for a QB1 fantasy season. More likely, he finishes as a mid-range QB2. Some issues with Daniels make him a boom-or-bust player. Daniels has often dealt with injuries in college, especially an ankle injury. He is a slimmer-framed player who weighs only 210 pounds, and he’ll be tackled by 300-pound linemen.

Daniels should benefit from a Kliff Kingsbury offense. An offense that allowed Kyler Murray to finish as QB7 as a rookie and QB2 in his sophomore year. Daniels is an overall better passer than Murray was coming out of college. Daniels led the nation in 20-plus yard throws and was spectacular to watch playing at LSU. The weapons surrounding Daniels are great compared to many rookie quarterbacks who have come before him. He has a WR1, a solid running duo, and a veteran tight end in Zach Ertz. Daniels should offer a safe floor as a QB2 for a fantasy owner with the upside to finish as a QB1. Contending teams may want to see if they can get their hands on Daniels, as I believe his dynasty value is more short-term than long-term.

The Backups

Jayden Daniels will undoubtedly be the starting quarterback for the Commanders in 2024. If there were to be an injury, Marcus Mariota would take over. Mariota can be a serviceable bye-week quarterback for a dynasty roster if he starts. Mariota’s passing can be up and down, but his rushing is solid. Mariota has at least 40 rushing yards in four of his last eight games. He can still provide low-end QB2 in a pinch when needed

Brian Robinson and Austin Ekeler, RBs

The Commanders’ backfield will be led by a two-headed monster, Brian Robinson and Austin Ekeler. Time will tell how they will be used in the offense. Logically, Brian Robinson would split early downs and have the red zone and goal-line work. Ekeler would have early down work and be the third down back for the offense. I’m more interested in Robinson as a potential low-end RB2 in 2024. Under the Kingsbury’s offense, the RB1 for the team had at least seven rushing touchdowns each season. Robinson is significantly bigger than Ekeler and would have more chances of scoring in the offense if they were inside the ten.

Robinson is still a great asset to buy low on for the season. While he may lose the 36 receptions he had last year, he’ll have a great chance of a higher touchdown season in this improved offense. Plus, Daniels is a rookie, and the team will likely attempt to run the ball more often. Robinson is probably an RB3 that has an RB2 upside.

Ekeler didn’t have a great 2023 season. Whether it was the high ankle sprain he suffered in week one or that Ekeler is 29 years old is something to monitor this season. Under Kingsbury, he had a running back with at least 50 targets in three of four seasons in Arizona. Ekeler can see around 50 targets in this offense, but don’t expect pre-2023 Ekeler in 2024. You should expect a solid RB3 with some upside in full PPR leagues. Despite his poor season, Ekeler was sixth in yards per reception and 10th in yards per route run. Ekeler’s success in 2024 will be based on his receptions and when he scores touchdowns. He should still be a cheap buy, a low option if you want depth for a fantasy team.

Backups

If something were to happen to either Robinson or Ekeler, the other would likely take the bulk of the workload in the offense. If it were Robinson, then you could expect Chris Rodriquez to work more with Ekeler than the other way around. In limited action, Rodriguez showed he could handle some work in the offense. He had 20 carries for 93 yards over week 15/16 of last season. If that were the case, he might be able to work as an RB4, but nothing would promote him to a weekly play. He is likely on your waiver wire and should stay there until his time comes.

Terry McLaurin, WR

McLaurin should resume his post as the WR1 for this Commander’s team. McLaurin finally gets to play with a potential Pro Bowl-level quarterback in 2024. McLaurin ranked eighth in deep targets last year but failed to connect with Sam Howell. Howell had a terrible deep ball completion percentage, but that won’t be the case with Jayden Daniels. McLaurin should be fed targets from the young quarterback.

McLaurin has always been a solid low-end WR2 in fantasy football, but there is a prime opportunity for improvement this year. I would expect McLaurin to see another 130 targets in this offense. Based on camp reports, McLaurin seems to be being used all over the field, which should only increase his efficiency with the ball. As a contending team, I’d be looking to acquire McLaurin. He is close to the end of his prime, but he should have another year or two left.

Jahan Dotson, WR

Next is Dotson, the former first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Dotson has disappointed dynasty owners with two 500-yard seasons despite seeing 11 touchdowns. Dotson averaged fewer yards and fantasy points in 2023 than only playing 2/3 of the season in 2022. He moved into the slot more in 2023, going from 19.1% of his route to 39.1%. The problem is that when working in the slot, you need to gain those yards after catch, and Dotson was ranked 77th in that stat. Only 22% of his yards came after the catch, and he played a full season. He has been a player who used well in the red zone, being in the top 36 in target both years.

Photo Courtesy of Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire

The hope is that Daniels’ ability to extend plays will help Dotson get the ball more often, but the team should regress from leading the league in pass attempts in 2024. Dotson will likely move back outside with the arrival of Luke McCaffrey, who played the slot for the majority of his college career. Dotson is a good sell-off candidate because he is still young, and others may still be interested in him. Looking at 2024, he likely won’t finish above WR4 at best.

The Rest of the Bunch

The one that stands out is rookie receiver McCaffrey. He comes from a small school in Rice and is more than recently coverted quarterback. McCaffrey played the slot 71% of the time at Rice, so you’d have to expect Rice to get the slot role in the offense. He was an older prospect coming out, so he may better understand schemes and coverage to produce in year one. He had 13 touchdowns in his final year in college, so he could be a weapon in the red zone. McCaffrey is a receiver I’m holding in Dynasty. He is already raw, but he could be a steal if he could translate well into the NFL. He will likely be on benches and the taxi squad but could make an impact later in the season. He is definitely a deep sleeper, but likely not to break the top 50 receivers.

The team also has players like Dyami Brown, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Jamison Crowder. Crowder is way into his 30s but had one game with seven receptions for 95 yards. He will challenge for the slot, but it would take an injury or two to become fantasy-relevant. Zacchaeus is a deep-threat receiver who may see a big play here or there, but he has only had one season of over 500 yards in his career. I liked Brown as a player, but they never worked out with the previous regime. He has never produced over 200 receiving yards in a season, and I don’t expect him to surpass it in 2024. All players should be on dynasty waivers and stay there until we see some injuries.

The Tight End Room

The last position is the tight end room, led by Zach Ertz. The team drafted Ben Sinnott in round two, along with other young veterans, John Bates and Cole Turner. Ertz is getting another shot to be a starting tight end, as he lost his job in Arizona. It wasn’t because he was bad, but injuries started piling up, and Trey McBride broke out. Ertz has already played under Kingsbury’s offense back in Arizona. In 22 games, Ertz had 103 receptions for 980 yards and nine touchdowns. Ertz is pushing 34 years old this year and has missed time each of the last two years. It’s hard to be confident Ertz will be healthy in one of the worst fields in football. He should lead this group in receiving yards and targets, but I’m not expecting a rival season from him. He is a TE2 with little upside for his status. He is best sold off before the season begins.

Sinnott will push Ertz for playing time as the young, more athletic player who can do it all. Sinnott could end up starting from day one, and it wouldn’t be a surprise. He crushed the Combine and played solid numbers at Kansas State. I could see him being a player with a great second half of the season. I could see Ertz getting hurt or struggling to allow Sinnot to get playing time. He has a lot of hype now, but be patient and buy low early in the season. Turner and Bates have no value until both tight ends ahead get hurt.

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